Debate: Atlantic Slave Trade Reparations in the News

HIST 4915: Power of the Past - History in the Present The following is a collection of articles and videos published in the media today on the current debate over the distribution of reparations to those affected by the Atlantic Slave Trade.

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  1. Video One:
  2. Atlantic slave trade compensation urged
  3. This video provides an overview of the current debate over the distribution of reparations for the slave trade. Although the claim might be very real and important for the Caribbean nations making it, the video provided commentary that was not very encouraging or hopeful of a positive result for the claims being made. The issue didn’t seem to be very well received by those present at the United Nations discussions. The video emphasizes that the big players in this debate such as the United Kingdom and other western nations were uninterested in the topic of reparations. It also suggests that the smaller nations fighting for reparations might need a different approach or another outlet for making their claims heard other than the United Nations, a location often dominated by the views of the big players and challenging place to make a voice of a small nation heard.

  4. Video Two:
  5. Should African Americans be given reparations for slavery?
  6. Although this video focused on the issue of reparations within the United States, it provided an interesting perspective on how the topic is being viewed by the leaders and possible future leaders of America. The video features a debate for the presidential candidates in an upcoming election. The majority of the candidates were not for reparations but they instead chose to focus on creating more educational programs and eliminating issues of inequality that stem within the American system. They chose to focus on the present day issues that may stem from a history rooted in slavery but did not believe that making financial reparations was the best route to take for Americans.

  7. Article One:
    Slave Reparations Blood Money: Pressure grows for compensation for the Caribbean trade 
    (The Economist - October 5, 2013)
  8. This article presented an outline of the current debates over the distribution of reparations by Westernized countries involved in the Atlantic slave trade to Caribbean nations where the slaves were enslaved. It provides a brief historical overview of the slave trade and the details concerning its abolition in 1807. The article focuses on the discrepancy between the experiences of whites and blacks, not only during the slave trade, but also the continuation of these inequalities with the ending of the slave trade. It recalls examples where similar tragedies of human suffering have occurred in human history and suggests that money is not likely the best option for providing healing and closure to those affected by the slave trade. The article raises a lot of questions regarding the distribution of reparations due to the historical nature of the claims such as who should pay, who or where would the money go to and how much should be paid. In its final sentences the article raises the point that although the slave trade occurred in the past, the issues that Caribbean nations are facing are very much being felt in the present and suggests that the focus of any form of reparations should be placed on the needs of today.
  9. Article Two:
    Slavery reparations: should aid money be used to pay for past misdeeds?
    (The Guardian - Jonathan Glennie - Nov 13 2013)
  10. This article raises the question of the issue of reparations serving a greater purpose than simply making amends for a tragic event in history but playing a key role in the distribution of aid for development purposes in countries affected by the legacy of slavery. The article claims that a call for reparations will likely not be successful in a court room but the deeper meaning behind the debate carries with it crucial questions regarding the future of aid distributions in todays political climate. It argues that if a change in perspective over aid is to occur people need to start viewing aid as a form of reparations and as part of a moral obligation held by the colonizer towards those who were colonized. 

  11. Article Three:
    St Vincent and the Grenadines prepares to confront dark history of slavery in court: Tiny island group is ready lead demands that UK, France and Netherlands pay reparations for transatlantic slave trade
    (The Guardian - November 9 2013)
  12. This article raises the question of the issue of reparations serving a greater purpose than simply making amends for a tragic event in history but playing a key role in the distribution of aid for development purposes in countries affected by the legacy of slavery. The article claims that a call for reparations will likely not be successful in a court room but the deeper meaning behind the debate carries with it crucial questions regarding the future of aid distributions in todays political climate. It argues that if a change in perspective over aid is to occur people need to start viewing aid as a form of reparations and as part of a moral obligation held by the colonizer towards those who were colonized. 

  13. Article Four:
    14 Caribbean nations sue European countries for slavery reparations: Lawsuits seek reparations from Britain, France, Netherlands for their roles in Atlantic slave trade
    (Aljazeera America - September 27, 2013)
  14. This article focuses on the details of the case being brought to the UN International Court of Justice by the Caribbean nations devastated by the lasting effect of the slave trade. The lasting economic and developmental damages of the slave trade on the Caribbean nations appear to be the main argument being brought forth by those seeking reparations. They seek a financial settlement from European nations who were involved in the slave trade with the hope of gaining money to put towards the development of their countries. The article features many quotes from key players in the debate including the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the British law firm hired to represent the Caribbean nations claim. These individuals state their intents and firm resolve to secure justice and repayment for the crimes committed against their peoples throughout the Atlantic slave trade.

  15. Article Five:
    Caribbean countries unlikely to see slave-trade reparations from Europe
    (Aljazeera America - January 12 2014)
  16. This article discusses the fact that although reparations are unlikely to be distributed, the claims being made by the Caribbean nations against European countries involved in the Atlantic slave trade could have a larger impact politically than simply a monetary one. Compensation is not being sought for the act of slavery itself but rather for the lasting damages that slavery has left on the Caribbean nations and people. The hope is that recognition will be given for the suffering caused by the actions of European nations involved in the slave trade and that a movement towards providing closure and assistance to Caribbean nations continuing to suffer will result. The article supports a claim for educational and developmental assistance to Caribbean nations today in the hope that the European countries will be able to make right the wrongs that they participated in during the historic period of the slave trade. 

  17. Article Six:
    Caribbean Nations to Seek Reparations, Putting Price on Damage of Slavery
    By Stephen Castle
    (The New York Times - October 20 2013)
  18. The article focuses on the discrepancy between the options of British and European nations on the issue of slavery and their lack of willingness to engage in a process of apologies or reparations for the actions of their ancestors. Although many individuals have spoken out about the horrors of slavery they do not believe that reparations are an appropriate means to fixing the actions committed by those in the past. The article provides multiple examples from around the globe where apologies or reparations were not supported for historical events that dealt with horrific issues such as slavery or genocide as the legal arena where this debate takes place views the crimes committed as too historic to be recognized in a modern courtroom. In addition the slave trade, which is generally viewed to be a crime against humanity in today’s context, was technically not illegal while it was taking place in the past and as such the likelihood of claims for reparations being taken seriously in an international court is slim.  

  19. Article Seven:
    A Campaign Worth Waging
    By Diane Abbott
    (Jamaican Observer - September 22 2013)
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